Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Seeing Like a Rat, starring Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner

I gave Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner to my now-ten-year-old for his birthday, but of course I had to preview it first. He said "I love it. this is, like, the best book ever!" I say Hilary has created engaging, distinct, and memorable characters, but more impressive is her abiltity to turn readers into rats.

Really, she did. I was a rat for several hours. She describes the beautiful Clover in such a way that I believe that Clover's not just a rodent, she's a female to envy and admire. Hilary somehow skipped over all the little nudges that often occur, where the author has to keep reminding the reader that the animals are animals, not people in fur with whiskers and tails glued on.
She was quite lovely, with smooth cocoa skin, and light fur, buff in color and downy soft, much more suited for a snow hair than for a rat. She had a short, rounded nose and a sculpted refined muzzle. Eyes the color of citrine offered up varied hues of yellowy briliance, round and open. Despite her beauty, she had an approachable sweetness, modest and shy.
Shall I give you Killdeer, snarly High Minister?
Lazily picking a scrap of roast hen off his distended stomach, Killdeer idly flicked the oily meat across his den. The mammoth rat slumped down further in his silver-chalice throne, only his limbs, potbelly, and snoutvisible to an onlooker...His legs draped over his silver throne like mounds of heavy velvet, leaving his immense feet hanging over the side like two dead gray rabbits. 
The dead rabbits line really jumped out at me, in a good way. He's like a furry Henry the Eighth.

Nightshade City follows two orphaned brothers, Vincent and Victor, who escape from the Catacombs and forced service in the Kill Army. They stumble into the rebel stronghold and find a group ready to fight for the freedom their father died trying to restore.

Another orphan, Clover, has caught Killdeer's eye and has no chance of escape with the Kill Army guarding her. Their paths will cross as the rebels seek to pull down the power-hungry Killdeer and his creepy second-in-command, Billycan. Nightshade City, once just a dream of the earlier generation, waits to be born.

This was a great book, well worth the purchase. Isaac was rereading some of his favorite parts at breakfast this morning and almost made us late to school. However, parents may want to preview this book. I don't suggest it to younger elementary, as Billycan and the Kill Army are quite vicious, pulling out tongues for torture, and there are some mentions of females being chosen to mate with Killdeer. Not graphic, but you might check it out first. I really liked the overall message of the book, actually.

Hilary is one of the friendliest writers I've met, so you might want to stop by and say hello to her. Because let me tell you, it was cool to tell Isaac "I know the author of this book." He was impressed ;)

Has anyone else been turned into a rat? What got you?


  1. My 14 year old son loves these books. (Of course, he doesn't tell all of his friends.)

  2. *smiles* Isaac was excited when I told him I was pretty sure there was a sequel in the works. Fourteen y-os are so funny.

  3. Thanks for this, Kelly. I must admit, I'm usually a little leery about reading books with animals for main characters (I just have a hard time relating to them), but I might give this one a shot.

    BTW, I just finished Neal Shusterman's BRUISER after reading your recommendation. LOVED. IT. I'll be recommending it on my blog sometime next week!

  4. Krista- I'm not a big animal character book lover either.

    I'm so glad you liked Bruiser. I haven't seen it mentioned many places, but it was so good, right up my alley. Thanks for letting me know! Have a great weekend!

  5. BRUISER was right up your alley, wasn't it? :) Although Brewster was a very different kind of empath than Lara.

  6. Kelly, thanks so much for such a nice review! I'm so happy your son likes it!!! :) Reader reviews make it all real--especially from kids!

    Thanks again!

    xoxo -- Hilary

  7. Hey Hilary. We were just talking about you;) Thanks for stopping by. We can't read the next one. Thanks- Kelly

  8. Oops! Snow hare. that's what I get for letting my brain do the transcribing. It's correct in the book. Thanks!- Kelly